Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Walkabouts - Cataract

The Walkabouts' Cataract was the first non-grunge album released by Seattle's Sub-Pop records. Much more rooted in folk music than, say, TAD's God's Balls, Cataract was still no precious affair. The influence of punk is clear in some of the rapid tempos and tough guitar work, but the Walkabouts music is as big and open as America itself.

Unfortunately, America proved not to be open to the Walkabouts. Sub-Pop dropped the band in the U.S. after their next album--1991's near perfect Scavenger--failed to meet sales expectations despite some slick production and high-profile guest spots from Natalie Merchant and Brian Eno. The band's subsequent albums have all been European-only releases. It seems absurd that one of America's best bands, playing distinctively American music, cannot get their music released in their home country, but perhaps there is something appropriate about that. The Walkabouts eventually relocated to Europe where the bulk of their small, but devoted, following resides.

Every track on Cataract is strong. I picked two of my favorites, but any other two would have done just as well. The album was released on CD in conjunction with the Rag & Bone EP, but that has been out-of-print for ages. Many of the group's albums are still available, and any and all of them are worth checking out. Also worth checking out is Chris Eckman's new solo album, Last Side of the Mountain, which features lyrics adapted from Slovenian poet Dane Zajc. Zajac's vivid imagery sounds right at home with Eckman's rootsy Americana, and beautiful guest vocals by fellow Walkabout Carla Torgerson make it difficult to distinguish it from a Walkabouts album. Highly recommended.

4 comments:

Adam said...

Pete,

A Walkabouts post was long due (and I should have taken the initiative). A number of the post-Sub Pop albums (technically Sub-Pop released the albums in Europe through Glitterhouse)were released in the states through Cargo, I believe. 'Setting The Woods On Fire' and 'Devil's Road' the latter released by Virgin are worth tracking down.

Pete Bilderback said...

Yes, I have some catching up to do on later period Walkabouts. The last album I bought was New West Motel in 1993. Part of the reason is probably because I took a long break from indie-rock, part of it because their albums weren't distributed or promoted as well in the U.S. as they had been. My loss, no doubt...the bits I've heard from their later albums sound great, as does Chris' new solo album.

I do have the "Linda Evans/Cyclone" 7" from 1987 though...that's gotta count for something (okay, maybe not). I'll always have real soft spot for Cataract, as it was the first album I bought by them, and I think it holds up remarkably well.

I see some of their albums are available via eMusic and on iTunes.

Adam said...

Can you post the 'Lind Evans'/'Cyclone' single when you get a chance? I haven't heard either track.

Pete Bilderback said...

"Linda Evans" and "Cyclone" are available as bonus tracks on the See Beautiful Rattlesnake Gardens CD.